March 29, 2007
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SETTING THE SCENE
The Indiana baseball team will open Big Ten play this weekend with a four-game series against Michigan State in Bloomington. The Hoosiers and Spartans kick things off with a 3 p.m. EDT start on Friday at Sembower Field, then will take part in a Saturday doubleheader starting at 1. The teams will close the series Sunday at 1. IU enters the weekend on a six-game winning streak, while the Spartans have been hot as well, having won their last two ballgames. MSU is 8-8 so far in 2007 after finishing seventh in the conference with a 13-19 record last season.
LAST TIME OUT
Five Indiana pitchers combined for a 4-0 shutout of IPFW on Sunday to push Indiana's win streak to six games. Matt Bashore pitched the first five innings to improve to 3-1 on the season, while Evan Crawford and Sterling Mack each had two hits for IU.
Bashore allowed just three hits and one walk, striking out two to lower his team-leading ERA to 1.63. The quartet of Chris Squires, Danny Rosenbaum, Eric Arnett and Joe Vicini combined to allow just two hits and strike out four Mastodon hitters over the final four innings. The five hits allowed were the second-fewest of the season for Indiana.
The Hoosiers got all the run support they would need in the bottom of the third. Reid Briglia led off the inning with a walk and Ben Greenspan followed with a single to right field to move Briglia up to third. After Tyler Cox struck out, Chris Hervey rapped a single through the left side to score Briglia and move Greenspan up 90 feet. Crawford followed with an RBI fielder's choice, and on the play, third baseman Jason Doerffler threw the ball wide of second and Hervey moved up to third. Hervey scored on an infield single by Justin Morales to make it 3-0.
IU had scheduled a Wednesday game against Xavier on March 28, but the contest was cancelled due to inclement weather conditions in Cincinnati.
THE ALL-TIME SERIES
The Hoosiers and Spartans have been doing battle since the 1930s, with MSU holding an 86-65-0 lead in the all-time series. Last season in East Lansing, MSU took three of four from the Hoosiers from March 31-April 2 with two of the victories being by a single run. The Spartans took the opener 17-7, then won the opening game of Saturday's doubleheader 2-1. Indiana rebounded with a 12-7 win in the second game of the double-dip, but MSU closed out the series with a 9-8, 10-inning win on Sunday.
SCOUTING THE SPARTANS
Michigan State enters Big Ten play with consecutive wins in its pocket fresh off defeats of Bowling Green on Wednesday and Concordia last weekend. MSU also took one of three from No. 23 Oklahoma the weekend of March 16. The Spartans returned to .500 at 8-8 with the victory over the Falcons, a 5-3 triumph on Wednesday.
Michigan State is led offensively by Steve Gerstenberger, who is among the top hitters in the conference with his .397 average and leads the team with 13 runs on the year. Leadoff hitter Dennis Jones leads the squad with nine steals and 15 RBIs and is hitting .298. As a team, MSU holds a .294 average, which is seventh in the conference.
On the mound, Craig Brookes leads the conference with a 1.01 ERA and is second with a .183 batting average against. Brookes will go against Tyler Tufts in the series opener. John Dwan pitched the first two innings against Bowling Green on Wednesday and has a 3.75 ERA, second best on the team. Mike Monterey has made six appearances and appears to have emerged as the team's closer, having notched his third save on Wednesday. The Spartans have a 5.03 team ERA and a .271 batting average against for the year.
Sophomore Tyler Tufts and freshman Matt Bashore continued their impressive play on the mound last weekend against IPFW. On the season, the Hoosiers' top two starters are first and second on the team in ERA, with Bashore posting a 1.63 and Tufts possessing a 2.83.
Bashore went five strong innings on Sunday against IPFW, allowing just three hits and one walk while striking out two. Bashore did not allow the Mastodons to string multiple base runners together in any inning. He leads the team with 22 strikeouts on the year.
Tufts struggled slightly in Saturday's game against IPFW, allowing nine hits and one walk in six innings of work. Just one of the three runs he allowed was earned, though, and the sophomore struck out a career-high seven. In his six innings, he managed to strand eight Mastodons on base, and in the sixth he got Quentin Brown to line out to center field with the bases loaded to end the IPFW threat.
Freshman Evan Crawford continues to impress in his brief time as a Hoosier. Crawford upped his average to a team-leading .391 with two hits in each game against IPFW on the weekend. Crawford has registered hits in 14 of his 18 career games. Interestingly, Crawford has shown a penchant for multiple-hit games. He has registered 11 on the season, nearly four times as many contests as he has tallied one hit in. He is one of three Hoosiers to have four hits in a contest this season.
Crawford and Josh Phegley are the only two Hoosier freshmen to have started every game this year. Crawford trails only Andrew Means on the squad in both runs (15) and steals (10). His 11 RBIs are tied for second on the squad with Jon Fixler.
Crawford, a native of Reynoldsburg, Ohio, finished his final high school campaign with a .462 average and 21 steals in 22 attempts. He has also been a stalwart defensively this year, taking part in 13 of Indiana's 19 grounball double plays this season. His 49 assists are tied for second on the team behind Keith Haas.
In Indiana's current six-game winning streak, the longest in IU skipper Tracy Smith's tenure, the Hoosiers:
are hitting .323 with 16 doubles and a .394 on-base percentage
are 30-for-31 on the basepaths, with both Andrew Means and Evan Crawford going 8-for-8
have drawn 21 walks compared to 30 in their other 12 games
have four players - Means, Crawford, David Trager and Chris Hervey - hitting over .400 and three others hitting .333 or higher
have scored 51 runs as compared to 55 in their other 12 games
are allowing opponents to hit just .248
have a collective 3.00 ERA with six hurlers under 2.00
have struck out 36 batters to 16 walks allowed
BIG TEN LEADERBOARD
Several Hoosiers have found their way onto the Big Ten leaderboard this season. Andrew Means enters the weekend two behind Illinois' Shawn Roof (14) for the league lead in steals, while Evan Crawford sits in fifth with 10 swipes. As a team, Indiana's 44 steals are most in the league with seven more than Illinois. Additionally, freshman Josh Phegley is tied for fourth in the conference with his six doubles on the season.
As a team, the Hoosiers sit in fourth place in the conference with their 3.81 ERA on the season. Ohio State leads the league with a 3.11 mark on the year. Matt Bashore is currently third in the conferencein both ERA (1.63) and in batting average against (.200). Bashore leads all conference freshmen in each category. Reliever Joe Vicini is tied for the conference's top spot with nine relief appearances on the season.
In Indiana's 10-9 victory over North Florida on Wednesday, March 14, the Hoosiers swiped a season-high nine bases, the most since IU stole 12 bases against Indiana State on April 18, 2006. Against UNF, Andrew Means and Evan Crawford each stole three bags to lead the visitors.
In his two years with the Hoosiers, head coach Tracy Smith has shown an affinity to be aggressive on the basepaths, and the 2007 Hoosiers have followed suit. IU has attempted 53 steals on the year to its opponents' 22. Indiana has been successful on 44 of its attempts this year.
Means and Crawford sit 1-2 on the team in steals with 12 and 10, respectively, while Keith Haas is 5-for-5 on the season and Brian Lambert is 3-for-3. Tyler Cox, Josh Richardson and Sterling Mack are each 3-for-4. Reid Briglia and Jon Fixler are the only players who have started more than four games that have not stolen a base.
HONORS FOR MEANS
Sophomore Andrew Means was named the Big Ten Player of the Week, the conference office announced on Tuesday, March 20. In the week ending on March 18, Means hit at a torrid pace, hitting .500 with seven RBIs, eight runs, two doubles and eight steals in five games. It is his first weekly honor from the conference and the first honor for a Hoosier since Reggie Watson was named Player of the Week on May 16, 2006. Means was also named to the College Baseball Foundation's National Honor Roll for his performance.
Means, who has also been impressive defensively in his transition from right to center field, began his week with a career-high four hits in seven at-bats in a 16-inning affair against North Florida on Wednesday, March 15. In that contest he drove in a pair of runs, scored one and stole a base. He followed that up with a career-best three steals the next night against the Ospreys, going 2-for-5 at the plate. With the score tied 9-9 in the eighth and Josh Phegley on second with two outs, Means ripped a game-winning RBI single to left center to ice the victory.
In IU's three-game series against Florida A&M, the Avon Lake, Ohio, native opened the set with a 2-for-4 outing, swiping two bags and scoring two runs. In the final game of the series, the sophomore went 3-for-6, scoring three runs and driving in three to go along with his third game of the week with multiple steals, notching his 10th and 11th steals of the season. On the year, Means is hitting .358 with a team-leading 12 steals and 16 runs.
The sophomore is also a wide receiver on the Indiana football team. In 2006, he made 20 catches for 263 yards and a touchdown for the Hoosiers. Last season, the two-sport athlete hit .301 with 16 stolen bases for the Hoosier baseball squad.
REIDING BETWEEN THE LINES
Junior walk-on Reid Briglia used the fair weather in Florida to heat up his bat. In the eight games in the Sunshine State, Briglia hit a team-leading .433 and tied for the team lead with six runs scored. Briglia slugged a whopping .633 on the trip with four doubles and one triple for a team-leading 19 total bases on the 10-day affair.
Briglia is in his first season on the field with the Hoosiers. He redshirted while at IU in 2004 before transferring to Rollins College for a year, playing fall ball for Rollins. He then returned to Indiana and redshirted as a transfer in 2006 before joining the Hoosiers this season. The Cherry Hill, N.J., native is hitting .340 on the season with a .489 slugging percentage.
When junior David Trager entered the Friday, March 16, game against Florida A&M in the bottom of the first inning, he was the last person expecting to make history. But Trager did just that, entering the game to replace Evan Crawford at second, then posting hits in each of his five at-bats to become the eighth player in school history to record five hits in a single game. Trager, who entered the contest 0-for-4 on the season in limited action, hit doubles in the third and fourth and singles in the sixth, seventh and ninth to match the school record. On the same note, outfielder Chris Hervey broke out of his early-season swoon in the game, going 4-for-4 at the plate with a ninth-inning walk.
Freshman Tom Devero was sent in as a pinch-hitter in Sunday's 4-0 victory over IPFW, and he made the most of his first career at-bat. Devero took a 1-0 offering and blasted it the other way into the left-center gap for a stand-up double. He wasn't the only Hoosier to record his first career hit this weekend, as Justin Morales received the start in left on Sunday and went 1-for-2 with an RBI infield single.
When the Hoosiers exploded for 16 runs and 20 hits against Eastern Illinois on March 2, it marked the highest total in each category in the Tracy Smith era for the Hoosiers. Indiana posted two innings - the third and the ninth - of six runs or more and batted around in each inning.
Indiana's 16-inning game against North Florida on March 13 was the longest in the Tracy Smith era for the Hoosiers. Last season, IU lost a 14-inning game to Charlotte on Feb. 26 in the team's third game. The Hoosiers are 0-2 in extra-inning contests this season and are 2-5 in Smith's career when games go to extras. The UNF game lasted 4:40, the longest contest since a 17-7 loss to Michigan State on March 31 of last year.
ARE YOU NEW HERE?
The 2007 Hoosiers will look quite different from their 2006 counterparts, largely due to the fact that 19 of the 34 players on the roster are new to the program. Eighteen of the 19 players are freshmen for IU. So far, freshmen Evan Crawford and Josh Phegley have started all 18 games for IU, while Sterling Mack has 11 starts. Junior newcomer Reid Briglia has played 13 games with 12 starts on the year.